Customer service is everything: it can make or break a business. Today’s businesses must be accessible to customers at any time. That can present a challenge to small and emerging companies with no budget for an enterprise phone system. Many resort to using their personal phone, which doesn’t project the professionality or credibility of a company number.
Fortunately for hard-working entrepreneurs and small businesses, there is a way to get the productivity and efficiency of a modern enterprise phone system without the price tag. Voice over IP (VOIP) allows your customers, vendors, and employees to reach you anywhere, anytime by using your company phone number. It gives you the flexibility and scalability of a full phone system with the affordability that is vital for a small business.
The Growing Shift to Modern Phone Systems
Traditionally, larger companies depended upon PBX, or private branch exchange phone systems, for their voice communications. It connected all office phones to the same network, making it easy to transfer calls to the appropriate person. The analog PBX system depended upon a switchboard. Each number on the network was represented by a different extension rather than a different phone line.
As technology advances, there has been a growing shift to more modern phone systems. IP PBX systems connect calls over the internet rather than through traditional phone lines. While on-site IP PBX systems provide the scalability necessary for growing companies, they are largely out of the realm of possibility for smaller companies.
The upfront investment for a PBX system is quite substantial, totaling thousands of dollars in technology and equipment. It requires software and hardware like routers, VOIP gateways, phones, headsets, and an uninterruptible power supply (UPS).
This not only places the solution out of the budget of most smaller companies but is much more than what an operation with only a few people needs. That may be why 61% of companies are now moving to VoIP phone systems.
VoIP has made professional, scalable, and affordable phone systems accessible to everyone. One of the main advantages is the cost: you only need to invest in an internet connection and IP phones or computers with headsets, much of which you may already have. A unified communications system leverages the power of the internet to offer voice, text, video conferencing, fax, and the ability to collaborate in real-time without being in the same location. Depending on your plan, you may also have options like call recording, call analytics, application integration, video conferencing for up to 100 people at a time, and more, all in one convenient and economical package.
Another distinct advantage of VoIP is flexibility. You and your team are busy building your business, working with vendors, and taking care of clients. That said, 86% of you are using your personal cell phones to respond to customers. VoIP adds credibility and professionalism by allowing you to receive and send calls and texts from anywhere using your business number.
How To Get Started With a Phone System
Let’s face it, there are a lot of options available for making calls over the internet. It can feel overwhelming trying to narrow down the possibilities. The question you must answer before making a choice is, “Which platform offers the best price, benefits, and features for my business and my customers?”
What do you need to keep the lines of communication open while providing privacy? Chances are, you do not need a full office setup. The most successful small businesses are agile and lean, operating on the minimum number of people possible to provide the highest quality products and services. This agility includes having a VoIP or virtual phone service that allows you to use your mobile devices for work while shielding your personal information.
A virtual phone number is not a full system. It simply leverages the current mobile and internet technology you already have and gives you the ability to use a separate number that forwards to your mobile device. It is an economical option; however, it isn’t a replacement for a full business phone system.
An IP phone service, on the other hand, offers the ability to have local, national, and international numbers routed to your mobile devices. It operates on an internet connection rather than phone lines. Like a full enterprise phone system, you can have all the bells and whistles you want or need, depending upon the plan you choose, such as:
- SMS text messaging
- Voicemail and voicemail to email
- Apps, menus, and queues
- Video meetings and free conference calling
- Fax from phone
- Dial-by-name directory
- HIPAA Compliance
- Voice Tagging
- Virtual or live assistants
- International dialing
- Additional phone numbers
All of these options and more will be offered by a reputable, full-service IP phone system provider. Even better, the right provider for your business should include most of the options in every plan level and give you the flexibility to add services as needed. Your ideal IP phone system will provide the ability for you to customize your system as if you were a large corporation, but with a small business price.
Another consideration is scalability. Do you anticipate that your business will continue to grow? Are you currently operating or planning to operate internationally? Having the option to add international dialing and global phone numbers could offer a significant competitive advantage.
If you’ve just started your business, you may currently be an army of one, wearing multiple hats. At some point, however, you may want to add more employees as your business takes off. Having a communications system that allows for multiple users and numbers is key.
Last, but certainly not least, particularly for small businesses, is the cost. You could look for the absolute lowest-cost provider. However, remember the adage, ‘you get what you pay for.’ Make sure you compare the included features, such as easy implementation and expert 24 x 7 customer service via phone, email, or chat, along with reading multiple customer reviews, before taking that route.
Setting Up the System
Once you’ve chosen your VoIP provider, you must make sure that your internet bandwidth is adequate. You want the most comprehensive coverage you can get with bandwidth to allow for multiple concurrent calls or to support video conferencing. Typically, two megabytes per second (Mbps) could support up to 20 calls at once, while video calls use an average of 27 MB per minute.
Next, select the number of users and choose your number (or numbers). You should have the option to keep an existing business number if you have one. Then, if you’ve chosen the right provider, you should simply be able to activate your account and start using your new, professional, business IP phone service.
The Right System for Your Small Business Is the One That Meets All Your Current and Future Needs
The right system can help you get ahead of the competition by being efficient and complete. It should offer you and your customers options that will make your business stand out. The right system for your business should offer the functionality you need today with the options that allow you to grow with your customer base. It should be easy to set up, have a broad range of included features, and have simple-to-understand options to customize your plan.
Having a professional phone system shouldn’t come at a huge cost. You can have a fully functioning business phone system reasonably and affordably. Phone.com has what you need to offer best-in-class communication, customer service, and collaboration at an accessible price. Sign up today!